As you may have heard, the Near South Side is really blowing up. From The Boiled Owl Tavern (where I tend bar) to the eagerly awaited debut of Live Oak Lounge & Music Hall, the neighborhood around West Magnolia Avenue is quickly turning into a bona fide entertainment district, combining high-end foodie-baiting restaurants like Lili’s Bistro and Ellerbe Fine Foods with nightfly-courting watering holes like the venerable Chat Room, the classy Usual, the homey Zio Carlo, and the comparatively new Owl. Once Live Oak opens (most recently projected for the middle of June), Magnolia will have a pub-crawl route running nearly 12 blocks, beginning with The Usual near Magnolia’s 8th-Avenue side all the way to Shinjuku Station, just west of Hemphill.
OK, so Shinjuku is technically a restaurant, but there’s a bar there, and bar manager Catfish Flores has put together a pretty good cocktail menu (including a stellar Bloody Mary recipe based on a mix of his own devising). I’m not really that into food, but I am clearly an outlier in the ’hood’s demographics. Personally, I’d love for more night spots to open on the strip, but the Near South Side’s growth seems to be sustainable and in tune with whatever its PRIZM clusters (geo-demographic measuring tools utilized by ratings giant Nielsen) suggest its residents like. If the people living in Fairmount and Ryan Place are more interested in nice restaurants serving upscale food than a bar on every corner, then that’s what the ’hood should have. Luckily for me, most of these semi-fancy eateries serve liquor.
One such establishment is Shaw’s Patio & Grill (originally Shaw’s Burgers & Shakes), which I include in my projected summertime booze crooze on account of its recently added bar and patio. Though Shaw’s has been open for over a year, the additions are barely a month old, and while they’re fully operational, the patio and bar are still works in progress, sort of like the second Death Star but with 100 percent fewer Storm Troopers.
Shaw’s bar (apparently called Jack Tanner’s, according to the website) isn’t really different from the rest of the restaurant. It’s the same wood on the walls, the same comfortable booths, and the same sunny atmosphere, which makes for the same neighborhood coziness you get while eating a burger in the other room. On the patio, the late-afternoon sun is obscured by a wall, making it a great spot to enjoy the Golden Hour without having to squint, and as I walked from the Owl to the Chat a few evenings ago around dusk, Q Cinema was screening a movie on Shaw’s wall, so expect to see the occasional outdoor flick there too.
Currently, the bar itself looks a little bit underwhelming, but co-owner David Shaw pointed out that it’s not yet totally finished. Fewer than 20 beers are currently offered, but a third of them come from nearby Rahr & Sons Brewing Company. Shaw also said he hasn’t yet installed his taps, so count on another 10 drafts to make their appearance in a couple of weeks.
One interesting facet of Shaw’s new foray into full bar-itude is how co-owners Shaw and wife Ann overcame a zoning hurdle created by the presence of a school, the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, across the street. Against the backdrop of threatened legal action by both sides, David came up with a compromise, agreeing that no more than 25 percent of Shaw’s revenue would come from liquor sales — before 3:30 p.m. After that, game on. When nearby Mijo’s Mexican Fusion opened a few weeks ago, it actually benefitted from David’s diplomatic work and agreed to the same sales policy.
If you ask me, the Near South Side’s boom is actually more of a quiet rumble (of stomachs, wocka wocka wocka), but as one of Fort Worth’s burgeoning nightlife hubs, the slow build is better than a glitzy blast. If stumbling down the strip this summer means I have to pop into a place that families tend to frequent, well, that’s not so bad (for me, at least; can’t speak for the families), as long as I can go outside and marinate in peace. — Steve Steward
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